Donald Trump raised $4 million within 24 hours of announcing his latest grift

In this issue:


Gilead

Competitive authoritarian regime project


Fig. 1. President Lyndon B. Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Clarence Mitchell during signing ceremony of the voting rights act. Yoichi Okamoto, August 6, 1965, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Eric Lutz, “Lawmakers Could Actually Safeguard Against Another January 6 — Will They Do It?” Vanity Fair, December 15, 2022, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2022/12/democrats-look-to-pass-electoral-count-act-reform

Donald Trump

Coup attempt


Fig. 2. “Jake Angeli (Qanon Shaman), seen holding a Qanon sign at the intersection of Bell Rd and 75th Ave in Peoria, Arizona, on 2020 October 15.” Photography by TheUnseen011101 [pseud.], October 15, 2020, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

My Mom wrote me, wanting to be sure I was aware of Donald Trump’s latest grift, “trading cards” sold as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). I wrote back wondering how many fools would actually buy them.

But don’t tell Trump’s most devoted fans. According to a real-time tracker, Trump allegedly made more than $4 million only a day after his announcement.[1]

I get this, by the way, from David French, who self-identifies as a never-Trumper,[2] usually a neoconservative label, but whom I had categorized with traditionalist conservatives in my dissertation.[3] He’s recently started a newsletter at the Atlantic, which I recommend, and certainly not because I’ll very often agree with him, but simply because he’s interesting.

In this particular case, he explains why Trump’s cons continue to hold appeal for so many[4] and the answer is, really, not so very different from that which motivated evangelical Protestants to support a man who doesn’t seem very Christian, even by their warped standards, at all, in that Trump offers hope to evangelical Protestants desperate for hope, who dread the status quo.[5] With the NFT trading card scam, it’s really the same thing: There’s a lot of hate for Joe Biden out there; for these folks, Trump is their hope and their salvation.

Erin Doherty, “Two new polls reveal Trump’s growing DeSantis problem,” Axios, December 14, 2022, https://www.axios.com/2022/12/14/trump-desantis-polls-republican-primary-2024

John McCormick, “Ron DeSantis Holds Early Lead Over Donald Trump Among GOP Primary Voters, WSJ Poll Shows,” Wall Street Journal, December 14, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/ron-desantis-holds-early-lead-over-donald-trump-among-gop-primary-voters-wsj-poll-shows-11670989311

Eric Lutz, “Lawmakers Could Actually Safeguard Against Another January 6 — Will They Do It?” Vanity Fair, December 15, 2022, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2022/12/democrats-look-to-pass-electoral-count-act-reform

David French, “How Much Longer Can Trump’s Con Endure?” Atlantic, December 16, 2022, https://newsletters.theatlantic.com/the-third-rail/639cd3a7b9e06100378d71b9/trump-nft-trading-cards-announcement/

Jamie Gangel and Katelyn Polantz, “January 6 committee expected to announce referral of multiple criminal charges against Trump to DOJ,” Cable News Network, December 16, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/16/politics/january-6-committee-trump-criminal-charges-doj/index.html

Twitter


Fig. 3. “Elon Musk shared a video of his entrance on his Twitter account.” Photograph attributed to Elon Musk, October 26, 2022, via the New York Post,[6] fair use.


I include Gali’s tweet not because I agree that “disruption is accelerating”[7] (he surely means ‘disruption’ as a capitalist libertarian virtue and as something entirely different for those of us on the wrong side of capitalism), but because he makes a worthwhile point about a “clickbait model” of journalism.

Indeed, I’ve had to turn away from the Hill over that very model, breathlessly reporting at length on every inane utterance by Donald Trump, for example. Trump, the black hole sucking the U.S. ever deeper into his self-pity and rage at anyone not entirely in his thrall; Trump, the delusional raging narcissist, formerly in chief, forever a repulsive spectacle. Particularly on the issue of unauthorized migration, but his bigoted wealthy white male supremacism generally, there was only so much I could take.

I am seeing a view among some Mastodon users who are sick of hearing about Twitter. My guess is that at least some of them have been in the “fediverse” for a while and had turned away from mainstream social networks for a variety of reasons, none of which I would criticize: They can claim vindication for doing a virtuous and often technically difficult thing when it wasn’t popular. And to them, I think there is an indignant sense of, “well, what the hell did you expect?” and that this is all old news about something they turned away from and stopped caring about, and moreover, think we should have not cared about to begin with, long ago. In that frame of mind, no doubt, all this is indeed annoying as fuck.

Those of us who had chosen a more pragmatic route, however, have lost an online community. Whatever emerges from this migration to Mastodon, it will not be that community. Some people are giving up social networks entirely. Not all are going to Mastodon (Tribel, Post, and even other centralized networks are all available alternatives).

To us, Twitter’s full-throttle nosedive to doom[8] is the crash of a plane we have parachuted out of. And it is coupled with the self-immolation of Elon Musk, piloting that plane, running on the jet fuel of hubris. How can we possibly not watch?

Laura Forman, “Twitter’s Advertising Truth Hurts,” Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/twitters-advertising-truth-hurts-11670706720

Keith Olbermann, “Hey look what they found in the ‘Twitter Files&rsquo,;” Twitter, December 11, 2022, https://twitter.com/KeithOlbermann/status/1601983506070081536

Elon Musk, “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci,” Twitter, December 11, 2022, https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1601894132573605888

Charlie Warzel, “Elon Musk Is a Far-Right Activist,” Atlantic, December 11, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2022/12/elon-musk-twitter-far-right-activist/672436/

Joseph Menn, “Elon Musk uses QAnon tactic in criticizing former Twitter safety chief,” Washington Post, December 12, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/12/12/musk-child-porn-qanon/

Stephen Wilmot, “Half-Price Tesla Stock Is Still No Bargain,” Wall Street Journal, December 12, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/half-price-tesla-stock-is-still-no-bargain-11670851513

Cat Zakrzewski, Joseph Menn, and Naomi Nix, “Twitter dissolves Trust and Safety Council,” Washington Post, December 12, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/12/12/musk-twitter-harass-yoel-roth/

Zoë Schiffer and Casey Newton, “Twitter’s risky plan to save its ads business,” Platformer, December 13, 2022, https://www.platformer.news/p/twitters-risky-plan-to-save-its-ads

Steve Burgess, “Please Advise! Is Elon Musk Really That Vile?” Tyee, December 14, 2022, https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2022/12/14/Please-Advise-Elon-Musk-Really-Vile/

Joseph De Avila, “Twitter Suspends Account That Tracked Elon Musk’s Private Jet,” Wall Street Journal, December 14, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/twitter-suspends-account-that-tracked-elon-musks-private-jet-11671036887

Rebecca Elliott, “Elon Musk Sold More Than $3.5 Billion Worth of Tesla Shares,” Wall Street Journal, December 14, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/elon-musk-sold-more-than-3-5-billion-worth-of-tesla-shares-11671071099

Nicholas Gordon, “Twitter is reportedly not paying rent for its offices as Musk warns users to ‘beware of debt,’” Fortune, December 14, 2022, https://fortune.com/2022/12/14/twitter-not-paying-office-rent-elon-musk-cut-costs/

Drew Harwell, “QAnon, adrift after Trump’s defeat, finds new life in Elon Musk’s Twitter,” Washington Post, December 14, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/12/14/qanon-musk-revival-twitter/

Paul Farhi, “Musk suspends journalists from Twitter, claims ‘assassination’ danger,” Washington Post, December 15, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/media/2022/12/15/twitter-journalists-suspended-musk/

Dana Hull and Bloomberg, “Elon Musk just unloaded $3.6 billion in Tesla stock, his 4th huge sale this year,” Fortune, December 15, 2022, https://fortune.com/2022/12/15/elon-musk-unloaded-billion-tesla-stock-fourth-huge-sale-this-year/

Adam Clark, “Musk’s Twitter Suspends Accounts of Some Journalists and Rival Mastodon,” Barron’s, December 16, 2022, https://www.barrons.com/articles/elon-musk-twitter-suspends-accounts-journalists-mastodon-tesla-51671178816

Jillian Deutsch and Aggi Cantrill, “Musk Faces European Anger Over Twitter Ban of Journalists,” Bloomberg, December 16, 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-12-16/musk-faces-threats-from-european-lawmakers-over-twitter-bans

Kevin T. Dugan, “Is Elon Musk Setting Himself Up to Lose Tesla?” New York, December 16, 2022, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2022/12/why-elon-musks-twitter-affair-could-cots-him-tesla.html

Gali, “the mainstream media can't stop talking about @twitter drama because it fuels the clickbait model . . .” Twitter, December 16, 2022, https://twitter.com/Gfilche/status/1603644570679803904


Pennsylvania

2022 election


Fig. 4. John Fetterman as mayor of Braddock, photograph uncredited and undated, via Next Pittsburgh,[9] fair use.

After taking an early oath of office on Monday, and claiming control of the state House as majority leader, Rep. Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, on Thursday called for special elections on primary election day in May in two Allegheny County legislative districts.

Cutler’s announcement was the latest shot in a battle between the House Republican and Democratic caucuses over which party has the authority to call elections for vacant seats that will determine control of the chamber.

House Democrats renewed accusations that Cutler’s motive in claiming authority to set the election dates was to disenfranchise voters, and to ram through Republican initiatives by keeping the Democratic-leaning seats empty as long as possible. . . .

With Democratic Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro set to take office next month, House Republicans are unlikely to pass legislation that Shapiro would sign, but they could hold a second vote on a GOP-backed constitutional amendments.

House approval would send the bill back to the Republican-controlled state Senate. Approval there would put the amendment package on track for a vote on primary day.[10]

Bryan Cutler’s move follows a Democratic Party victory[11] that was probably only temporarily eliminated by a death and by two departures for other political offices. Cutler had earlier called for a February 7 special election.[12]

Democrats won 102 House seats in the general election, but Rep. Anthony DeLuca’s, D-Allegheny, death in October, means Democrats have only 101 votes, the same number as Republicans.

After former House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, on Wednesday called for a Feb. 7 special election for the DeLuca’s seat, Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, challenged his authority to do so.

McClinton said that while Democrats agree that calling a special election as soon as possible makes sense, it was her prerogative to do it as majority leader and “acting speaker.”[13]

Democrats won 102 seats in the 203-member body on Nov. 8, which party leaders say gives them control of the chamber. However, three of those seats are vacant as of this week.

One Democratic winner, state Rep. Tony DeLuca (D., Allegheny), died a month before Election Day — too close to Nov. 8 to remove his name from the ballot — while two others won races for Congress and lieutenant governor and formally resigned their state House seats Wednesday.

With DeLuca’s death, Republicans claimed that at minimum, the lower chamber was tied 101-101.

But on Wednesday, McClinton had herself sworn in and claimed the mantle of Majority Leader. Citing a 2004 precedent, she says that makes her the lower chamber’s presiding officer.

McClinton then scheduled the three special elections for February. Speaking to reporters afterward, she and fellow Democratic leaders said that the action was to ensure that the empty seats are filled sooner rather than later.[14]

Those “GOP-backed constitutional amendments?”[15] They’re about requiring voter identification and a denial that the Pennsylvania constitution protects abortion rights.[16] The legal dispute over who has the authority to call for the elections[17] has not been resolved.[18] Nor has, as far as I know, the legal dispute over the way that those proposed constitutional amendments were advanced.[19]

Pennsylvania’s statewide elections agency said in a court filing Friday that it is moving ahead with plans for special elections to fill three state House vacancies in early February unless a court orders otherwise.

The Department of State and acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman submitted a 17-page response to Lancaster County Republican state Rep. Bryan Cutler’s lawsuit seeking to stop the Feb. 7 special elections in Pittsburgh-area districts held most recently by Democrats. . . .

The Department of State’s new filing argues that Cutler failed to also sue his Democratic counterpart as floor leader, Rep. Joanna McClinton of Philadelphia, and that his dispute is with her, not with Chapman or her department. It also claims his effort on Nov. 30 to schedule one of the three vacancies for Feb. 7 was made too early, as the vacancy did not occur until the new two-year legislative session began on Dec. 1.

“To enjoin the special elections to fill vacancies in the House of Representatives would only create harm — wasting resources that have already been deployed to prepare for special elections on (Feb. 7), delaying those elections, and forcing Pennsylvania citizens to go even longer without the benefit of elected representation in their legislature,” wrote lawyers for the department and Chapman, who was appointed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.[20]

Cutler would likely be making a mistake if he hopes to schedule those constitutional amendments for a vote on the same day as the May primaries. From what I understand, Pennsylvanians mostly favor abortion rights,[21] so while it might gin up white Christian nationalist turnout in support of those amendments and advance white Christian nationalist candidates to the general election, this would be to repeat the error of the midterms,[22] and to ensure turnout for Democrats determined to crush those amendments.

Peter Hall, “House Republicans call for special elections in Democratic strongholds on primary day,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, December 15, 2022, https://www.penncapital-star.com/campaigns-elections/house-republicans-call-for-special-elections-in-democratic-strongholds-on-primary-day/

Mark Scolforo, “Agency argues against delay in filling 3 Pa. House vacancies,” Associated Press, December 15, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/pittsburgh-pennsylvania-e0b4bdd5a785c360887c147d4048a7aa


  1. [1]David French, “How Much Longer Can Trump’s Con Endure?” Atlantic, December 16, 2022, https://newsletters.theatlantic.com/the-third-rail/639cd3a7b9e06100378d71b9/trump-nft-trading-cards-announcement/
  2. [2]David French, “How Much Longer Can Trump’s Con Endure?” Atlantic, December 16, 2022, https://newsletters.theatlantic.com/the-third-rail/639cd3a7b9e06100378d71b9/trump-nft-trading-cards-announcement/
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  4. [4]David French, “How Much Longer Can Trump’s Con Endure?” Atlantic, December 16, 2022, https://newsletters.theatlantic.com/the-third-rail/639cd3a7b9e06100378d71b9/trump-nft-trading-cards-announcement/
  5. [5]Elizabeth Bruenig, “In God’s country,” Washington Post, August 14, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/08/14/evangelicals-view-trump-their-protector-will-they-stand-by-him/; Sarah Jones, “White Evangelicals Made a Deal With the Devil. Now What?” New York, December 6, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/12/white-evangelicals-made-a-deal-with-trump-now-what.html; Katherine Stewart and Caroline Fredrickson, “Bill Barr Thinks America Is Going to Hell,” New York Times, December 29, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/29/opinion/william-barr-trump.html; Peter Wehner, “Evangelicals Made a Bad Bargain With Trump,” Atlantic, October 18, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/10/the-evangelical-movements-bad-bargain/616760/; Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “After Trump and Moore, some evangelicals are finding their own label too toxic to use,” Washington Post, December 14, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/after-trump-and-moore-some-evangelicals-are-finding-their-own-label-too-toxic-to-use/2017/12/14/b034034c-e020-11e7-89e8-edec16379010_story.html
  6. [6]Thomas Barrabi, “Elon Musk barges into Twitter HQ as deal nears: ‘Let that sink in,’” New York Post, October 26, 2022, https://nypost.com/2022/10/26/elon-musk-barges-into-twitter-headquarters-as-deal-nears/
  7. [7]Gali, “the mainstream media can't stop talking about @twitter drama because it fuels the clickbait model . . .” Twitter, December 16, 2022, https://twitter.com/Gfilche/status/1603644570679803904
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Elon Musk’s Achilles’ heel,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/07/10/elon-musks-achilles-heel/
  9. [9]Kim Lyons, “Braddock Mayor John Fetterman keeps on truckin’ in his quest for the Senate,” Next Pittsburgh, March 11, 2016, https://nextpittsburgh.com/features/the-challengers-braddock-mayor-john-fetterman-keeps-on-truckin/
  10. [10]Peter Hall, “House Republicans call for special elections in Democratic strongholds on primary day,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, December 15, 2022, https://www.penncapital-star.com/campaigns-elections/house-republicans-call-for-special-elections-in-democratic-strongholds-on-primary-day/
  11. [11]Anna Orso, Jonathan Lai, and Max Marin, “Democrats appear to have won a majority of seats in the Pa. House for the first time in 12 years,” Philadelphia Inquirer, November 16, 2022, https://www.inquirer.com/politics/election/democrats-set-to-win-control-of-pa-house-20221116.html
  12. [12]Peter Hall, “With no majority in the Pa. House, Democrats and Republicans are fighting over who calls the shots,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, December 2, 2022, https://www.penncapital-star.com/campaigns-elections/with-no-majority-in-the-pa-house-democrats-and-republicans-are-fighting-over-who-calls-the-shots/
  13. [13]Peter Hall, “With no majority in the Pa. House, Democrats and Republicans are fighting over who calls the shots,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, December 2, 2022, https://www.penncapital-star.com/campaigns-elections/with-no-majority-in-the-pa-house-democrats-and-republicans-are-fighting-over-who-calls-the-shots/
  14. [14]Stephen Caruso, “With majority at stake, Pa. House Republicans sue to block Democratic-scheduled special elections,” Spotlight PA, December 10, 2022, https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2022/12/pa-house-majority-special-elections-republican-lawsuit/
  15. [15]Peter Hall, “House Republicans call for special elections in Democratic strongholds on primary day,” Pennsylvania Capital-Star, December 15, 2022, https://www.penncapital-star.com/campaigns-elections/house-republicans-call-for-special-elections-in-democratic-strongholds-on-primary-day/
  16. [16]Gillian McGoldrick, “Pa. Legislature approves constitutional amendments to declare residents don’t have the right to an abortion, to require voter ID,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 8, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-state/2022/07/08/pennsylvania-senate-advances-constitutional-amendments-residents-rights-relating-abortion-require-voter-id/stories/202207080102; Gillian McGoldrick, “Pa. Senate GOP committee advances late-night amendment to restrict abortion, require voter ID,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 8, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-state/2022/07/08/pennsylvania-senate-republicans-advance-constitutional-amendment-to-restrict-abortion-and-call-for-voter-ids-roe-v-wade/stories/202207080073; Rodrigo Torrejón, “What the Pa. constitutional amendment package could mean for abortion and elections,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 8, 2022, https://www.inquirer.com/politics/pennsylvania/pa-senate-constitutional-amendments-abortion-elections-voting-20220708.html
  17. [17]Stephen Caruso, “With majority at stake, Pa. House Republicans sue to block Democratic-scheduled special elections,” Spotlight PA, December 10, 2022, https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2022/12/pa-house-majority-special-elections-republican-lawsuit/
  18. [18]Mark Scolforo, “Agency argues against delay in filling 3 Pa. House vacancies,” Associated Press, December 15, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/pittsburgh-pennsylvania-e0b4bdd5a785c360887c147d4048a7aa
  19. [19]Mark Scolforo, “Gov. Wolf sues to stop GOP-backed amendments on abortion, voting,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 28, 2022, https://www.inquirer.com/politics/pennsylvania/governor-wolf-sues-amendments-abortion-voting-20220728.html
  20. [20]Mark Scolforo, “Agency argues against delay in filling 3 Pa. House vacancies,” Associated Press, December 15, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/pittsburgh-pennsylvania-e0b4bdd5a785c360887c147d4048a7aa
  21. [21]Jonathan Tamari, William Bender, and Chris Brennan, “The Pa. GOP’s no good, very bad, terrible election is forcing a reckoning in the state party,” Philadelphia Inquirer, November 13, 2022, https://www.inquirer.com/politics/election/pa-gop-losses-mastriano-2022-20221113.html; Mike Wereschagen, “What went wrong? How the GOP’s hope for a red wave in Pennsylvania crumbled,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 13, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/election2022/2022/11/13/pennsylvania-republicans-election-control-congress-legislature/stories/202211110116
  22. [22]Jonathan Tamari, William Bender, and Chris Brennan, “The Pa. GOP’s no good, very bad, terrible election is forcing a reckoning in the state party,” Philadelphia Inquirer, November 13, 2022, https://www.inquirer.com/politics/election/pa-gop-losses-mastriano-2022-20221113.html; Mike Wereschagen, “What went wrong? How the GOP’s hope for a red wave in Pennsylvania crumbled,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 13, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/election2022/2022/11/13/pennsylvania-republicans-election-control-congress-legislature/stories/202211110116

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